With a schedule that sees him playing an average of 200 shows a year, genre-straddling musician Matt Andersen is no stranger to the road. Though he doesn’t write songs while he’s travelling, the New Brunswick native uses his time between gigs to jot down ideas, stashing them away until he’s ready to unleash them. “They get bottled up,” Andersen says with a laugh, “and then when I let them all out — well that’s how I end up with eight new tunes all at once.”
With his soulful voice, melodies that ease effortlessly from blues to roots and rock, along with a solid stage presence, Andersen, 28, has been getting his fair share of attention since he first started playing his own music in his early 20s. Along with a myriad of awards, including 2009 East Coast Music Awards for Blues Recording of the Year and Male Solo Recording of the Year, Andersen has toured and shared stages with the likes of America, Randy Bachman and the late Bo Diddley, among many others. He’s performed at jazz, blues and folk festivals across the country, most recently at the Montreal Jazz Festival, the Vancouver Folk Festival and the Ottawa Blues Festival.
Born into a musical family (“There was always music in the house”), Andersen played in bar bands until finding his own feet on stage. Now there’s no place he’d rather be than in front of an audience. “I’m more comfortable on stage than off — especially if it’s a solo show. Then I’m the only one up there I have to worry about.” Andersen describes his audiences as the reward for the gruelling travel schedule that keeps him away from his Halifax home so many days of the year. “When you do all that driving, and eating crappy gas-station sandwiches, the audience is really my pay-off.”
Andersen says he finds his songwriting inspiration everywhere. “It’s all stuff that happens to me, to friends — and every once and a while, it’s something made up,” he says with a laugh, “you know…standard blues stuff.” But ultimately, Andersen says every song has a “little bit of me in it. I have to sing them every night, so there always has to be a bit of me I can latch onto.”
Andersen’s most recent album, Piggyback, was recorded with Sarnia, Ont.-based harmonica virtuoso Mike Stevens. “He’s a pretty heavy player,” says Andersen, “so it was quite an opportunity to get to do an album with him.” In typical Andersen style, the album’s 12 original songs were co-written over the course of an inspired week, and recorded in three days live off the floor at The Cottage in Guelph, Ont.
For Andersen, the new album means he’ll be spending a lot more time on the road, including tour dates in the United States and in the U.K., but that’s the way he wants it right now. “The more I play, the more people will hear me, so I’m always up for shows. That’s why I keep the schedule I keep.”
- In 2009, Andersen won the Dutch Mason Award at the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival in Frederiction, N.B.
- He will be touring with Jill Barber as part of the 2009 Vinyl Café Christmas Tour, with host Stuart McLean.
- In January, Andersen will be competing in the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tenn., the world’s largest gathering of blues acts.